Posts tagged as: child

Nigeria:Nigeria Has Third Highest Infant Mortality Rate in the World – WHO

By Ayodamola Owoseye

Nearly ten per cent of new-born deaths in the world last year occurred in Nigeria, a new report by the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, has revealed.

According to the report, five countries accounted for half of all new-born deaths last year, with Nigeria third in the list. These are India (24 per cent), Pakistan (10 per cent), Nigeria (9 per cent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4 per cent) and Ethiopia (3 per cent). Most new-born deaths occurred in two regions: Southern Asia (39 per cent) and sub-Saharan Africa (38 per cent).

The report showed that 15,000 children died globally before their fifth birthday in 2016, with 46 per cent of the deaths (7.000) occurring in the first 28 days of life.

The World Health Organisation issued a press statement on Thursday on the new study titled: Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017.

The study reveals that although the number of children dying before the age of five is at a new low – 5.6 million in 2016 compared to nearly 9.9 million in 2000 – the proportion of under-five deaths in the new-born period has increased from 41 per cent to 46 per cent during the same period.

The UNICEF Chief of Health, Stefan Peterson, said though the lives of 50 million children under-five have been saved since 2000 through increased level of commitment by governments and development partners to tackle preventable child deaths, more still needs to be done to stop babies from dying the day they are born, or days after their birth.

“We have the knowledge and technologies that are required – we just need to take them where they are most needed.”

According to the report released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the Population Division of UNDESA, which make up the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), at current trends, 60 million children will die before their fifth birthday between 2017 and 2030, half of them new-borns, .

The Nigerian Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, had earlier this year described the high mortality rate of under-five in the country as unacceptable.

He said the government has however made significant progress in reducing the rate of new-born deaths in the country as it has declined from 201/1000 live births to 128/1000 live births in 2013.

Every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of child bearing age, making the country the second largest contributor to under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world.

The latest report notes that many lives can be saved if global inequities are reduced.

If all countries achieved the average mortality of high-income countries, 87 per cent of under-five deaths could have been averted and almost 5 million lives could have been saved in 2016.

Tim Evans, Senior Director of Health Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group said it is unconscionable that in 2017, pregnancy and child birth are still life-threatening conditions for women, and that 7,000 new-borns die daily.

“The best measure of success for Universal Health Coverage is that every mother should not only be able to access health care easily, but that it should be quality, affordable care that will ensure a healthy and productive life for her children and family.

“We are committed to scaling up our financing to support country demand in this area, including through innovative mechanisms like the Global Financing Facility (GFF)”, he said.

Pneumonia and diarrhoea top the list of infectious diseases which claim the lives of millions of children under-five globally, accounting for 16 per cent and eight per cent of deaths, respectively.

Preterm birth complications and complications during labour or child birth were the causes of 30 per cent of new-born deaths in 2016. In addition to the 5.6 million under-5 deaths, 2.6 million babies are stillborn each year, the majority of which could be prevented.

Ending preventable child deaths can be achieved by improving access to skilled health-professionals during pregnancy and at the time of birth; lifesaving interventions, such as immunization, breastfeeding and inexpensive medicines; and increasing access to water and sanitation, that are currently beyond the reach of the world’s poorest communities.

UN Report Warns of Rising Newborn Mortality in Near Future

Washington, DC — A latest report by UN agencies warned on Thursday that at current trends of child mortality, nearly 60 million children could die before their fifth birthday between 2017 and 2030, half being newborns.

The report, Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017, was jointly released by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the Population Division of UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Its statistics show that for every day in 2016, some 15,000 children died before their fifth birthday, including 7,000 babies who died in the first 28 days of life. Although the number of children who died before the age of five is at a new low, which stood about 5.6 million in 2016 compared with nearly 9.9 million in 2000, the proportion of under-five deaths in the newborn period has increased from 41 percent to 46 per cent.

Pneumonia and diarrhea top the list of infectious diseases which claim the lives of millions of children under-five globally, while preterm birth complications and complications during labor or child birth caused 30 percent of newborn deaths in 2016. In addition to the 5.6 million under-five deaths, 2.6 million babies are stillborn each year, though the majority of which could be prevented. “Unless we do more to stop babies from dying the day they are born, or days after their birth, this progress will remain incomplete. We have the knowledge and technologies that are required, we just need to take them where they are most needed,” said UNICEF Chief of Health Stefan Swartling Peterson. Existing data show that most newborn deaths occurred in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, taking more than 75 per cent of the total mortality when combined. The five countries that accounted for half of all new-born deaths were India (24 per cent), Pakistan (10 per cent), Nigeria (9 per cent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4 per cent) and Ethiopia (3 per cent).

The report notes that if all countries had achieved the average mortality of high-income countries, 87 per cent of under-five deaths could have been averted and almost 5 million lives could have been saved in 2016.

Xinhua

Rwanda

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Rwanda:UN Report Warns of Rising Newborn Mortality in Near Future

Washington, DC — A latest report by UN agencies warned on Thursday that at current trends of child mortality, nearly 60 million children could die before their fifth birthday between 2017 and 2030, half being newborns.

The report, Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017, was jointly released by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the Population Division of UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Its statistics show that for every day in 2016, some 15,000 children died before their fifth birthday, including 7,000 babies who died in the first 28 days of life. Although the number of children who died before the age of five is at a new low, which stood about 5.6 million in 2016 compared with nearly 9.9 million in 2000, the proportion of under-five deaths in the newborn period has increased from 41 percent to 46 per cent.

Pneumonia and diarrhea top the list of infectious diseases which claim the lives of millions of children under-five globally, while preterm birth complications and complications during labor or child birth caused 30 percent of newborn deaths in 2016. In addition to the 5.6 million under-five deaths, 2.6 million babies are stillborn each year, though the majority of which could be prevented. “Unless we do more to stop babies from dying the day they are born, or days after their birth, this progress will remain incomplete. We have the knowledge and technologies that are required, we just need to take them where they are most needed,” said UNICEF Chief of Health Stefan Swartling Peterson. Existing data show that most newborn deaths occurred in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, taking more than 75 per cent of the total mortality when combined. The five countries that accounted for half of all new-born deaths were India (24 per cent), Pakistan (10 per cent), Nigeria (9 per cent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4 per cent) and Ethiopia (3 per cent).

The report notes that if all countries had achieved the average mortality of high-income countries, 87 per cent of under-five deaths could have been averted and almost 5 million lives could have been saved in 2016.

Xinhua

Rwanda

We Believe in Building Bridges With All Peoples – First Lady

The First Lady, Mrs Jeannette Kagame, has said Rwanda believes in building bridges with all peoples and cultures,… Read more »

Zimbabwe:Govt Gives Taxi Operators Ultimatum

By Obert Chifamba

Government has given commuter omnibus operators in Mutare two weeks to properly register their vehicles and ensure their drivers have licences and medical certificates allowing them to drive public vehicles. Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs Cde Mandi Chimene issued the ultimatum yesterday when she toured the Chikanga-Sakubva bus rank to assess the situation prevailing on the ground in terms of the operations of commuter omnibuses.

“No kombi should be allowed to ply any route in Mutare if it is not properly registered. All kombis should be licensed, have a VID fitness certificate and a police clearance certificate on fitness and should have billboards bearing their destinations to make it easy for commuters to identify them. In fact, there should be different identification colour bands on kombis to represent the various destinations to which they go,” she said.

“Drivers to those vehicles and their conductors should also have uniforms in those colours to make it easy for people to spot the kombis to their homes. There should be no touts jostling and harassing passengers. Do you know that it is an offence just to touch a person or wrestle their luggage, forcing them to board your kombi?”

Minister Chimene posed the question to the crowd that gathered to listen to her speech. Officials from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Mutare city officials, police officers, kombi drivers, touts, chairpersons of commuter omnibus associations and the general public attended the minister’s brief tour. Cde Chimene’s stern warning comes in the wake of an incident in which a commuter died in Harare after being physically harassed by touts, who were forcing him to board a bus bound for Mutare.

The incident has since seen urban councils and police tightening screws on commuter omnibuses and conventional buses picking up passengers from undesignated points. Cde Chimene promised to bring more police details, including some in plain clothes on to the roads to make sure kombis were abiding by the new regulations that she spelt out yesterday. Cde Chimene said no kombi would be allowed to pick or drop passengers at undesignated points, stating that those caught risked having their vehicles impounded and the drivers arrested.

“The police will not issue tickets – tickets merely demonstrate your admission of guilt, so I will order them to imprison offenders and not issue tickets. There is no bus terminus near this robot by the swimming pool just outside Sakubva where I see kombis blocking the road picking and dropping passengers — from now onwards, anyone seen doing that faces a life ban from driving a public vehicle in Mutare, while the vehicle that he will be using will also be impounded,” she said.

Chairman of the Urban Transporters Association of Zimbabwe, Mr Duncan Nyazika commended Government for the move, saying it would bring sanity to the industry while promoting the creation of more job opportunities at the same time.

“What the minister is saying is very sensible to us .It will help us to operate viably. We want all public passenger vehicles to operate from the rank. The police is also making life very difficult for us by harassing kombi operators queuing inside the rank, while mushikashika Honda Fit cars are moving freely in the city without harassment,” said Nyazika.

Zimbabwe

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Diamond Risks Six-Months Jail Term in Child Support Lawsuit

By Thomas Matiko

Bongo flava superstar Diamond Platinumz is facing a six-months jail term or a fine of upto Tsh5 million (Sh224,170) if found guilty of absconding his parental obligations.

A fortnight ago, Diamond was sued by his baby mama Hamisa Mobetto for child support and defamation, and the date for his appearance before a Kisutu Court in Dar es Salaam is fast approaching.

Diamond has publicly confessed cheating on his partner Zari Hassan with Mobetto.

The two bore a son Abdullatifah Naseeb in August whom Diamond claimed he is fully providing for.

In her notice for the lawsuit, Mobetto gave Diamond an ultimatum of 7 days to start supporting the child of two months and also demanded an apology for defamatory remarks the singer made against her.

JAIL SENTENCE

Diamond however failed to meet the demands prompting Mobetto to move to court.

The case is set to be mentioned end of this month, and according to Tanzanians’ Children’s’ Act 2009, if Diamond who is currently riding high with his latest hist single, Hallelujah, is found guilty he could be fined up to Tsh5 million or sentenced to jail for six months or slapped with the two penalties as the court would dim fit.

This is according to Tanzanians’ Childrens expert lawyer Abdallah Shaibu interpretation.

“Ukiangalia sheria ya watoto ya 2009 kwenye kifungu cha 41, kimezungumzia jukumu la mzazi katika kutunza mtoto. Pia vile viloe tukiangalia kifungu namba 51 cha sheria ya mtoto 2009 kimetaja itakuwa ni jukumu kwa mtu yeyote akiwemo baba endapo atashindwa kutoa huduma muhimu kwa mtoto, endapo atatiwa hatiani atapigwa faini isiyopungua laki tano na isiyozidi milioni tano. Pia ipo adhabu ya kifungo cha miezi sita kwa namna mahakama itakavyoona au adhabu zote hizo zikakwenda pamoja” Shaibu, who works for DKM Legal Consultants Advocates in Dar Es Salaam, said.

Tanzania

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Government to Pay Preschool Teachers

Photo: The New Times

(file photo)

By Nasra Bishumba

The Government will next fiscal year begin paying kindergarten teachers in public schools, the parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Technology, Culture and Youth heard yesterday.

Addressing the committee, the State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Isaac Munyakazi, said the decision is in line with the Government’s strategic plan to increase the number of children attending preschool.

Rwanda’s fiscal year starts in July and ends in June.

The minister said that, presently, teachers in public preschools only receive bonuses, which vary depending on the capacity of parents and communities in which they operate.

The plan, he said, is to increase the number of preschool-going children from the current 24 per cent of children aged between three and six years to at least 45 per cent in the next seven years.

Official statistics indicate that, in 2016, there were 2,757 public preschool facilities countrywide, up from 1,369 in 2010.

Some of these learning centres are run by parents under the Early Child Development programme, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Gender and Family Planning.

Munyakazi told the MPs that the numbers would increase gradually.

“When things are not working very well on our side, there is usually a reason, which is normally related to finances. That is the reason we continue to lag behind in terms of having all the three classes required for nursery school and qualified teachers. We, however, have a roadmap and we are working on addressing it,” he said.

Adult education

Meanwhile, Munyakazi told the MPs that Government has since broadened the curriculum for adult literacy classes beyond reading and writing, to also include English and general knowledge.

“This programme concerns those aged 16 and above. Originally, the idea was to teach people how to read and write but we have since taken another step forward and included languages like English, and general knowledge lessons for those who have already learnt how to read and write,” Munyakazi said.

He said in the national qualification framework that was approved this year, this type of education has three levels.

The first level is for those undertaking lessons in reading and writing, the second includes lessons in foreign languages and general knowledge, while the third level constitutes adult learners who can sit primary leaving examinations as a pathway to secondary school.

However, Munyakazi said there were still challenges related to shortage of classrooms for the programmes, but added that district authorities often help provide space in formal schools, places of worship, and district facilities.

MP Petronille Mukandekezi commended the Governmen’s decision to start paying preschool teachers, saying lack of a fixed salary affects the quality of lessons offered at this stage of learning.

“Preschool is very significant because it is the base of one’s education, therefore adding these teachers on the payroll is a great deal,” she said. “I am glad that a solution has been found. Parents had to contribute a monetary token of appreciation but I think this move by the Government will transform the entire system.”

Overcrowding

MP Edda Mukabagwiza also applauded the move but appealed to the minister to urgently work on the issue of overcrowding in existing preschools.

“I am happy to hear that these teachers will now be paid. I am, however, concerned about the issue of overcrowding. In places such as Nyakinama, a teacher takes care of over 80 children. In some areas, we found children studying from churches. You can work with community players to improve the situation,” she said.

Munyakazi admitted that the issue of overcrowding was a general one all over the country and largely blamed the situation on the past governments.

“In the past, the number of children in class used to be small not because people didn’t want to study but because someone used to deny them that opportunity. The current government provided full access to education to everyone and this made many people want to study yet the infrastructure wasn’t enough,” he said.

“That’s the challenge we have today but, gradually, and with support from our partners, we are fixing it.”

Asked by The New Times how many public preschool teachers the Government was looking to add to the payroll, Munyakazi said the ministry was yet to ascertain the number.

He was also non-committal when asked how much they were likely to pay a preschool teacher.

Nigeria: Reps to Probe Poor Condition of State House Clinic

By Nasir Ayitogo

The House of Representatives has asked an ad-hoc committee to investigate the condition of the State House Clinic, Abuja, and alleged irregular deductions from the salaries and allowances of the staff.

This house set up the committee after adopting a motion raised by Henry Archibong (PDP-Akwa Ibom) at the plenary on Thursday.

Mr. Archibong alleged that despite huge budgetary allocations, the clinic lacks necessary facilities, drugs and even such as syringes.

He was echoing a complaint earlier made on Monday by the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha, who criticised the management of the facility.

Aisha Buhari [Photo: naij.com]

“In the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Appropriation Acts, the Clinic was allocated the sum of ₦3.94 billion, ₦3.87 billion and ₦3.2 billion respectively, for upgrading and provision of necessary drugs and equipment,” Mr. Archibong said.

He also alleged that medical doctors working at the Clinic were complaining over alleged illegal deductions from their salaries and allowances by the Management since April 2017, without any official explanation.

Mrs. Buhari, at a stakeholder’s meeting at the State House on Reproductive, Maternal, Nutrition, Child Advocacy and Health and Nutrition (RMNCAHN), said she was unable to access health care at the Clinic and had to go to a private facility run by foreigners.

“I called the Aso Clinic to find out if they have an X-Ray machine, they said it’s not working”

“In the end I had to go to a hospital owned and operated by foreigners 100 per cent”

“There is a budget for the Hospital and if you go there now, you will see a number of constructions going on but they don’t have a single syringe there.”

“What is the purpose of the buildings if there are no equipment there to work with?”

“You can imagine what happens across the states to governors wives if this will happen to me in Abuja,” she said.

State House clinic [Photo credit: nigeriamedinterns.com]

Mrs. Buhari’s comments also came a few days after her daughter, Zahra, took to her Instagram page to accuse the Permanent Secretary of the State House, Jalal Arabi, of allegedly failing to provide even Paracetamol tablets at the clinic despite a budget of N3 billion for provision of drugs at the hospital.

Nigeria:Reps to Probe Poor Condition of State House Clinic

By Nasir Ayitogo

The House of Representatives has asked an ad-hoc committee to investigate the condition of the State House Clinic, Abuja, and alleged irregular deductions from the salaries and allowances of the staff.

This house set up the committee after adopting a motion raised by Henry Archibong (PDP-Akwa Ibom) at the plenary on Thursday.

Mr. Archibong alleged that despite huge budgetary allocations, the clinic lacks necessary facilities, drugs and even such as syringes.

He was echoing a complaint earlier made on Monday by the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha, who criticised the management of the facility.

Aisha Buhari [Photo: naij.com]

“In the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Appropriation Acts, the Clinic was allocated the sum of ₦3.94 billion, ₦3.87 billion and ₦3.2 billion respectively, for upgrading and provision of necessary drugs and equipment,” Mr. Archibong said.

He also alleged that medical doctors working at the Clinic were complaining over alleged illegal deductions from their salaries and allowances by the Management since April 2017, without any official explanation.

Mrs. Buhari, at a stakeholder’s meeting at the State House on Reproductive, Maternal, Nutrition, Child Advocacy and Health and Nutrition (RMNCAHN), said she was unable to access health care at the Clinic and had to go to a private facility run by foreigners.

“I called the Aso Clinic to find out if they have an X-Ray machine, they said it’s not working”

“In the end I had to go to a hospital owned and operated by foreigners 100 per cent”

“There is a budget for the Hospital and if you go there now, you will see a number of constructions going on but they don’t have a single syringe there.”

“What is the purpose of the buildings if there are no equipment there to work with?”

“You can imagine what happens across the states to governors wives if this will happen to me in Abuja,” she said.

State House clinic [Photo credit: nigeriamedinterns.com]

Mrs. Buhari’s comments also came a few days after her daughter, Zahra, took to her Instagram page to accuse the Permanent Secretary of the State House, Jalal Arabi, of allegedly failing to provide even Paracetamol tablets at the clinic despite a budget of N3 billion for provision of drugs at the hospital.

Nigeria

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Sierra Leone: Social Welfare Minister Takes Sierra Leone Success Story to Ecowas – Defends Adult Bondo Women’s Rights to Their Bodies

The Minister Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs,Dr.Sylvia Olayinka Blyden has just returned from the 2017 edition of the annual ECOWAS First Ladies Conference, which ended in Niamey, Niger on 5th October, this year.

Sierra Leone First Lady, Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma had requested Honourable Cabinet Minister, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden to represent her since she could not attend. The meeting ended on a high note wherein Sierra Leone, through the astute presentation of the minister, successfully convinced the high profile and very important meeting to amend the proposed Final Declaration so as to reflect Lessons Learnt in protecting Sierra Leone Girls from female circumcision (aka FGM).

Hon. Blyden made a successful and well-received call for the efforts to combat FGM on girls to be made separate from how to manage FGM that is voluntarily done by matured, adult women. In other words, Blyden defended the rights of adult women of the Bondo and Sande secret societies to do what they wanted with their bodies whilst fiercely protecting girls from being subjected to any FGM and adult women from being forced to undergo FGM against their will.

It was a very big meeting with key importance that drew a very high level representation from ECOWAS and the African Union including the presence of the Chairman of ECOWAS Conference of Heads of State and Government,H.E. President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, the President of Togo. Also gracing the event was H.E. President Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger; as did H.E. Marcel Alain de Souza the president of ECOWAS Commission. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament with a large number of ECOWAS parliamentarians also flew in to attend. ECOWAS Commissioner of Social Affairs and Gender Dr. Fatimata Dia Sowe and her team provided technical assistance.

It was in the midst of this galaxy of distinguished persons that the Sierra Leone mantra of Respect the Women and Protect the Girls was marketed, positioned and accepted for possible replication by ECOWAS Member States.

After a passionate presentation of the representative of H.E. First Lady Sia Koroma, the meeting decided to amend the Final Communique so that the focus was no longer a call for a blanket ban on female circumcision but for a ban on circumcision of girls and forced circumcision of adult women. The importance of allowing adult African women to not feel disrespected by strategies to combat FGM was well understood by the gathering and this led to the ECOWAS Commission President requesting for Sierra Leone to prepare a formal report on ‘Respect the Women and Protect the Girls’ so that ECOWAS could share it amongst Member States.

Indeed, this simple but very effective strategy has seen Sierra Leone experience a massive drop in the number of girls being subjected to female circumcision over the past 18 months as compared to ever before during normal times. The Bondo Society is a secret society during which initiates undergo female circumcision. Prior to now, it used to be such that girls under the age of 18 years were initiated and adult women were also forcibly initiated.

The ‘Respect the Women and Protect the Girls’ strategy has for the first time in this country, seen Bondo society activities largely carried out without girls being initiated and without adult women being forced into joining. The strategy has been a huge success and has seen the 2017 Summer Vacation go by without a single case of FGM being reported around the entire country. Prior to now in Sierra Leone, during vacations are when large numbers of girls are taken to be initiated.

Promulgated by H.E. President Koroma of Sierra Leone’s Government and which Cabinet Minister Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden had successfully marketed in many places including over the United Nations powerful global media in June this year, the Strategy basically recognises the right of matured, adult women to do what they want with their bodies whilst fiercely protecting girls 18 years and below, from being circumcised. It successfully takes away the resentment which already-circumcised women feel when they are described as “mutilated” and/or “victims” of a procedure in which they take immense pride.

At the same time women are being respected, girls are being educated to know they have a right to decline when they reach the 18 years age of consent. Through the assistance of non-governmental organisations, girls are being educated to be able to stand up and decline being circumcised without any fear. Girls in Sierra Leone now know the government does not turn a blind eye when any girl is at risk of being initiated or when any woman is at risk of being forcibly circumcised. The girls know they are now safe to say NO! At the same time, the adult women know they are not being insulted and disrespected.

The Sierra Leone Strategy also brings on board the leaders of the female Bondo secret societies who perform female circumcision on their initiates. The Bondo leaders are engaged through a long running process that commenced in 2010 with the help of the United Nations and which has been sustained to date. The leaders signed up to an MOU promising to avoid any forced or under-aged initiation. Upon being convinced on the values of the Strategy to protect girls, the female leaders of the Bondo Society, assured H.E. President Koroma that they will cooperate with his Government in punishing any woman found circumcising a girl under 18 years. Furthermore, self-policing amongst these female leaders has led to whistle blowing that have swiftly seen the Government move in and stop potential cases of under-aged initiations before they happen. The Bondo Society women have lived up to their promises and girls who used to be at risk of being circumcised, are now being more and more empowered to know they are protected from such.

One of the dangerous side effects of performing FGM on children is the risk of them developing Obstetric Fistula. Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, Sierra Leone’s Cabinet Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs who represented First Lady Sia Koroma at the Conference, is a trained medical doctor who says there is a distinct correlation between Obstetric Fistula and Child Pregnancy.

WHAT IS OBSTETRIC FISTULA?

Obstetric Fistula can result from child marriage and subsequent child pregnancy when the pelvis is not yet well developed to easily pass a baby through the vaginal birth canal. This results in prolonged labour with the baby pressing hard on the walls of vagina. This long stay of the baby in the birth canal, stems the blood supply to pressure point and that part of the vaginal wall dies producing a hole or holes along the walls of the vagina. It is through such holes which urine and/or faeces may pass and be leaking through the vagina. This disease, which leaves women with a bad smell, is known as Obstetric Fistula.

The correlation between Child Marriage, Child Sexual Abuse, subsequent Child Pregnancy and resultant Obstetric Fistula is therefore well known.

Female Circumcision during Rites of Passage, is a prelude to a female getting ready for marriage, sexual activity and pregnancy. Therefore, circumcising a girl whose pelvis is not mature to deliver a baby means you are sentencing such a girl to having a potential child pregnancy as she will be deemed to be ready for marriage. The correlation between Child Female Circumcision and Obstetric Fistula is quite clear. This is one of the reasons why the Government of Sierra Leone is so passionate to protect girls from being circumcised.

Hon. Minister Dr. Blyden however challenges that there is no known scientific link between Adult onset circumcision and Obstetric fistula. No respected scientific study has ever produced a finding. This makes the case for respecting Adult Women to choose to be circumcised. It is a fact that in America, women above the age of 18 years who choose to be circumcised, are free to do so. The Law which criminalises female circumcision in America, makes it criminal only when it is done on persons below the age of 18 years. In America, any woman above the age of 18 years can ask for FGM to be done on her and it is perfectly legal.

Hon. Blyden readily agrees that there are other known negative effects of female circumcision such as Septic Infection, Profuse Bleeding sometimes leading to death, HIV and other infection from sharing blades; but she says they cannot be used as a basis to ban adult women who willingly seek to be circumcised. Rather, she says the strategy first used over half a century ago by Sir Milton Margai, to teach adult women better and safer medical methods of circumcision is what should be applied alongside a complete ban on under-aged girls being circumcised and a ban on forcing adult women. Margai was a medical doctor who went on to become the first Prime Minister of Sierra Leone.

Hon. Dr. Blyden is very passionate about the rights of adult women to be allowed to do what they want with their bodies. She did not mince her words during the Niamey Conference.

Hear her words that convinced the gathering:

“According to H.E. de Souza, the Head of the ECOWAS Commission, West African nations and other countries around the world, have been striving to end FGM for over 25 years now but without any significant success. I do agree with him and I want to assert today that if West Africa does not come and learn from Sierra Leone’s strategy to respect women and protect the girls, come another 25 years from now, the problem will persist. So come to Sierra Leone and learn how we have been able to go for virtually the past 12 months without a single girl being initiated anywhere in our country. Come and learn how to respect women and protect girls. We also invite our Partners who wish to think outside the box to also come and learn how to protect girls,” was how Honourable Blyden ended her presentation calling for an amendment of the Final Declaration.

As she eloquently completed her submission, the entire hall went silent; so silent that a pin dropping could have been heard. Then suddenly, one First Lady started clapping and then another and another until everyone in the hall was applauding the message from Sierra Leone.

At this point, the ECOWAS Commission President put it to a Vote as to whether the Final Declaration was to be amended to cover only Girls and Enforced FGM as requested by Sierra Leone. Every one of the First Ladies present endorsed the call from Sierra Leone and so the entire Declaration was amended to now read it to be a call for a Ban on FGM amongst Girls and banning Involuntary FGM on adult women.

The ECOWAS President said to Minister Blyden: “All the First Ladies in here, have now agreed to amend the Final Declaration as proposed by Sierra Leone based on the argument which Sierra Leone has eloquently explained. It is clear that Sierra Leone is doing something correctly that is making Sierra Leone girls to be protected from FGM so we now need Sierra Leone to help other Member States to replicate your strategy.” He then directed for ECOWAS Gender Commissioner to work with Sierra Leone to compile a Report on the Strategy so it could be re-shared amongst Member States for them to replicate it.

Speaking to media reporters afterwards in Niamey, the Sierra Leone Minister said that she felt proud that her country’s strategy is gaining more and more wings.

“Sierra Leone is very confident that our country’s strategy will eventually become the definitive Best Practice for handling female circumcision aka FGM in West Africa,” Minister Sylvia Blyden beamed with pride as she responded to questions.

Meanwhile, the First Ladies and Gender Ministers of ECOWAS are all slated to meet again in Ivory Coast this coming weekend to further discuss other child protection mechanisms and to make yet another specific declaration on Child Protection Systems for West Africa. First Lady Sia Koroma is expected to attend that meeting this weekend and from there, her delegation will be heading to Dakar, Senegal for another Regional Meeting on Child Protection that she will be co-hosting.

We can end this feature by saying the fact that strongly focusing undiluted attention on protecting Girls of Sierra Leone continues to be the pivot and mainstay of the efforts by Sierra Leone in combating negative effects of female circumcision aka FGM. Insulting adult women that they are mutilated victims has been proven to be counter-productive to getting the much needed buy-in from the majority of women whose support is critical to our vision of protecting Girls.

The mantra of ‘Respect the Women and Protect the Girls’ remains a continuing success story in Sierra Leone and it is hoped the rest of West Africa can indeed replicate it.

Katavi Region Leads in Teenage Pregnancies Prevalence – Report

By Peti Siyame

Mpanda — AS the world observes International Day of the Girl Child today, Katavi Region is reported to be leading in teenage pregnancies in the country, with a prevalence of 45 per cent.

According to the latest report from the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, nationally, the prevalence stands at 27 per cent. In the line-up, Katavi Region followed by Tabora (43), Dodoma (39), Mara (37) and Shinyanga (34) .

The report further states that about 14 schoolgirls in Nsimbo District Council in the region, have been reported to have dropped out of schools after being impregnated between January and June, this year.

Nsimbo District Council’s Community Development, Ms Dianarose Mnuo cited lack of hostels, failure of the parents and guardians to protect them from ‘temptations’ and long distance from schools to have made the girls to be impregnated prematurely.

Expounding, she further said among the impregnated schoolgirl, five of them were studying at Ugala, Katumba and Kanoge and the rest from Katumba Secondary School (3), Nsimbo (5) and Sitalike (1) as indicated in the brackets.

According to Katavi Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr Raphael Muhuga explained that regionally, the day would be commemorated in Mpanda Municipality, since it was leading in the country.

Mr Muhuga said various activities including enlightenment would be offered to the public on the crime, especially to the parents and their guardians on how to reduce teenage pregnancies in the region.

According to the Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey and Malaria Indicator Survey (TDHSMIS) report of 2015, 27 per cent of girls got pregnant before they reached 18.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that in the next 10 years, one million girls would be married before attaining the age of 18 years globally, with Sub-Saharan Africa being in the lead.

Tanzania

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